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by Matt Brogan

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) has announced over night that it plans to withdraw from the FIA Formula One World Championship (F1) at the end of the 2009 season.

TMC, which had viewed its participation in F1 as contributing to the prosperity of automotive culture, remained dedicated to competing at the pinnacle of motor sports, even in the face of the abrupt economic changes that started last year. However, when considering TMC’s motor-sports activities next year and beyond from a comprehensive midterm viewpoint reflecting the current severe economic realities, TMC decided to withdraw from F1.

TMC leaves F1 having compiled 13 podium and 87 point finishes over eight challenging seasons since 2002 with Panasonic Toyota Racing, a full-constructor team. It views its time in F1 – in which teams put forth their best efforts to fiercely compete at racing’s highest level – as an irreplaceable experience that provided an opportunity to develop both human resources and its R&D operations. TMC expresses its deepest appreciation to its F1 fans and others for their warm support.

Drawing on its experience in F1 and other motor sports, TMC intends to move forward in developing exciting production vehicles, such as the Lexus LFA supercar and compact rear-wheel-drive sports cars, the FT-86. In motor sports, it will not only race in various categories, but will also actively contribute to further development of motor sports by supporting grassroots races and planning events in which it is easy for people to participate.

Below is the speech from Toyota President, Mr Akio Toyoda, from the press conference:

Toyota has engaged in F1 racing for eight seasons, starting in two thousand two. But we will conclude our participation in F1 competition with this season.

Our board of directors reached that decision after debating the issue thoroughly. I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has supported our F1 program over the past eight years.

That includes the fans who cheered for our team, the companies that sponsored our racing program, the journalists who covered our activities, and the drivers and all the other team members, who shared the excitement of automobiles with people worldwide through F1 racing.

I attended the Japanese Grand Prix last month at the Suzuka Circuit. The passion of the fans was infectious. The team play displayed by our F1 team, Panasonic Toyota Racing, was incredibly impressive, and our driver’s performance was genuinely stunning.

When I think of the fans, emotions well up inside me. All I can hope is that people will understand that this painful decision was unavoidable in view of the present business environment and the medium- and long-range outlook. Our fans have been calling on us to really go at it next year. And I offer my sincere apologies that we will be unable to fulfill their expectations.

The Toyota F1 team has competed in one hundred forty F1 races over the past eight years. It has tackled each race with intensity and has honed its competitiveness continuously.

I salute the Toyota team for performing impressively in head-to-head competition with the greatest names in motor sports. And I thank the members of our team for sharing with us their passion and their vision.

I have been calling for product-focused management since I became president at Toyota this June. I have called for Toyota to concentrate on serving customers one at a time with flavorful vehicles that make them happy.

That priority mandates a fundamental shift in resource allocation. A sad result of that shift is that we have insufficient resources to maintain a viable commitment to F1 racing.

Economic and market conditions remain extremely trying. But adversity only heightens the importance of rethinking our proper legacy for the next generation.

A commitment to contributing to society through the manufacture of automobiles has steered all activity at Toyota since the company’s beginning. Today, we are undertaking several initiatives to promote the development of automotive culture on a new and higher plane.

Motor sports remain an important means of personalising the automobile in the eyes of customers. Motor sports also remain an important means of cultivating human resources and our R&D operations.

We will rethink our motor-sports activities with an eye to maximising those benefits while addressing economic realities. And we will take what we learn on the racetrack and put it to work in ever-better vehicles that are aimed at meeting the highest of expectations.

Thank you.